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Accomplice gets 6 1/2 years for 2022 Corner shooting

The woman who inexplicably started a physical altercation with a stranger on 14th Street in Charlottesville and then stomped and punched that stranger after her boyfriend shot him received her jail sentence Tuesday.

Mariah Shavone Smith, the 31-year-old woman caught on video instigating a fight and then pummeling a seriously injured man, must serve six years and six months for malicious wounding.

“Continuing to beat and hit him after he was shot, when for all you knew he was dying, is in many respects the definition of what malice is,” said the presiding judge, Claude Worrell.

It was a subdued and remorseful Smith, reportedly sobered by a year behind bars, who appeared in Charlottesville Circuit Court to receive her sentence Tuesday. Her distinctive bleached blonde hair, evident in her booking photo, has mostly grown out. She repeatedly dabbed tears from her eyes with the collar of her red jailhouse jumpsuit.

Prosecutor Nina-Alice Antony showed the court surveillance footage shot from the nearby 14th Street parking garage showing what transpired over the course of just a single minute in the early hours of Dec. 18, 2022. The video shows Smith and her boyfriend, Anthony Marcus Paige, leaping out of a car to suddenly engage and attack a then-24-year-old man named Airrick Salisbury, who was out with friends.

“By all accounts, Ms. Smith is the one who starts the altercation,” said Antony. “It’s as close to a random act of violence that we’ll see.”

The video shows Salisbury, who was working in a University of Virginia dining hall at the time of the attack, attempting to evade the violent strangers. But after getting repeatedly punched by Paige, Salisbury flipped the man onto his back. Paige responded by firing a shot into Salisbury’s chest at point-blank range. The video then shows Smith attacking the wounded man.

“He’s already on the ground and shot,” said Antony. “Ms. Smith punches Mr. Salisbury, kicking and stomping him in the head.”

The incident took place shortly after 2 a.m. in the popular Corner commercial district adjacent to UVa. Antony suggested that the site’s proximity to the university’s trauma center saved the young man’s life.

“But for the fact that UVa hospital was hundreds of feet away,” said Antony, “Mr. Salisbury would not be sitting with us today.”

Present in the gallery, the now 25-year-old Salisbury did not testify. However, his mother, Jessica Irving, took the stand to detail her son’s travails which, she said, included nearly half a year of partial paralysis and reliance on a colostomy bag, as well as months of physical therapy. She said her son still has a bullet fragment lodged in his spine.

“He’s a fighter,” said Irving. “He’s a trooper.”

Her son, she said, had a job, worked hard, had never been in any trouble. The attack in 2022 took away his livelihood and his freedom, she said.

“He lost his employment, and he didn’t have the money to cover his apartment,” said Irving. “For a young man to have everything shut down and take away his independence.”

Smith stared straight ahead while hearing this damage chronicled, and Smith’s mother took the stand to reveal that Smith has been damaged herself.

Melissa Gray told the court that her daughter lost her father when she was young and experienced postpartum depression after the birth of her first child, a son, when she was 16. That son, Gray said, was murdered at the age of 6 by his own father.

“She became numb,” said Gray. “Just angry.”

A nurse, Gray watched her daughter struggle with prescription medications to deal with diagnoses of anxiety, bipolar disorder, PTSD and borderline personality disorder. Gray said her daughter added street drugs into the mix.

“She was in turmoil,” Gray testified. “She was trying to numb her brain.”

Gray said that her daughter’s three surviving children, all boys, are now scattered between herself, a pair of grandparents and a third household.

Defense attorney Jessica Phillips conceded that her client used poor judgment on the night of the shooting, in part because Smith was under the influence of some intoxicants.

“It’s very easy to look at a video and stop and pause and rewind,” said Phillips. “But you can’t know what’s in her mind. Not only did she lose a child, but her child was murdered.”

Smith fought back sobs as she stood to apologize. As a dozen of her friends and relatives watched, Smith turned toward the victim and his mother.

“I just want to say I’m truly sorry from the bottom of my heart,” she said.

“We do not discount any of the struggles she’s had in her life,” said the prosecutor. “Those are horrible things, but it does not provide a justification or excuse.”

The prosecutor called for a sentence at the higher end of the guidelines, and the judge seemed to agree — even after reading a jailhouse letter Smith wrote containing mostly abject remorse.

“There’s something in your letter that troubles me,” said Worrell, taking issue with Smith’s characterization of her actions as “instinctual.”

“There’s nothing instinctual about that,” said Worrell. “That’s a voluntary decision on your part that is contrary to law and order.”

In October, Worrell set the punishment for Smith’s boyfriend, Paige, the person who delivered the near-fatal gunshot to Salisbury’s chest. The 29-year-old received an eight-year active sentence after pleading guilty to three charges, including malicious wounding and the use of a firearm in a felony.

Like Smith, Paige bore the scars of a painful past: He recently lost a brother to homicide and when he was in ninth grade he was cut across the face in a random act of violence while playing video games with a friend.

Neither Smith nor Paige, however, have ever explained why they decided to pull over their vehicle to attack Salisbury who has no known connection to the two.


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